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Periodical Article Reviewed:

Judd Marmor. Homosexuality: Is Etiology Really Important? Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy. Vol. 2(4):19-28, 1998.

Some editions of can be purchased online @ Amazon.Com. Subscriptions to the periodical can be purchased from Haworth Press.

Review by Gary Simpson. All copyrights are held by the author.

Periodical Article Review:

At the time the article was published, Judd Marmor was a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. Judd Marmor is writing in a professional journal, so the writing style is more academic and less reader friendly than articles found in newspapers or common magazines. The article is worth reading by all who are concerned about homophobia.

Some people reading Marmor's article might be disappointed.  Marmor is reporting as a medical researcher, not as if he were writing an editorial.  Marmor does not set out to prove the cause of sexual orientation, because the cause of homosexuality cannot be proven. He does not establish exactly how some people develop a gay sexual orientation while other people develop a straight sexual orientation. Instead, the article briefly describes some theories regarding the causes of homosexuality and indicates some of the weaknesses of the theories.

As one reads the article, one can see how some of the theories regarding the development of homosexuality could promote a climate of homophobia.  Other theories regarding the causes of a gay sexual orientation could help reduce homophobia.   In this review, the reviewer will comment briefly as to the possible impact of each view on homophobia.

According to Marmor, homophobia is based on four assumptions. Those assumptions are that homophobia is sinful, unnatural, a chosen behavior, and could be contagious. Three of the four assumptions Marmor feels are responsible for homophobia are directly related to the causes of homosexuality.

A few of the more common views regarding the cause of homosexuality that are discussed in the article are as follows:

  • Homosexuality is caused by arrested sexual development. Freud favored this explanation. The explanation lacks credibility, because it is based on gay people who were receiving psychiatric care. In the opinion of this reviewer, any theory based only on experiences with people in psychiatric care might not be valid for the rest of society.  Believing gay people have arrested sexual development could cause people to feel gay members of society are intrinsically inferior.

  • Gay people are deeply narcissistic. This theory does not easily explain the presence of very narcissistic straight people.  Reflecting on this cause for only seconds will help a person understand that people who feel narcissism could be a cause of homosexuality are more likely to be homophobic.

  • Male homosexuality is due to very close relationships between the mother and the child and by very distant relationships between the father and the child. Thinking about this theory, one can see how this view of the cause of homosexuality can lead people to believe gay people are socially deficient and can cause people to think something can be done to "cure" gay people. Marmor cites a study that concludes there is no relationship between the “family constellation” and sexual orientation.

  • Possible genetic factors. Two studies are cited showing that the rate of homosexuality among twins is much higher than it is in the rest of society. When one identical twin is gay the other twin is twice as likely to be gay as when one non-identical twin is gay.  Believing there is a genetic cause of homosexuality can help reduce homophobia, because a genetic cause would indicate there is no way homosexuality is contagious.

  • Hormonal irregularities when the fetus is developing.  The reviewer of this article feels this theory can help reduce prejudice or increase prejudice.  Some people might feel hormonal irregularities indicates gay people are defective.  Other people may see in this theory the fact that homosexuality is clearly not a choice.

  • Homosexuality services a purpose. Marmor cites Denniston as noting that homosexual behavior is found in ‘every type of animal that has been carefully studied.’ There is some thought reported that homosexuality is important in helping species survive. The article provides examples of how homosexual animals help ensure the survival of a species. We will mention only two of them. Homosexual animals help ensure the survival of a species by protecting the females, and by protecting the young.  The socio-biology perspective can help people understand homosexuality is not destructive to humanity, because homosexuality evolved because homosexuality was beneficial to animal species, including humans.

  • An understanding of the possible genetic, biological, and physiological causes of homosexuality is important in reducing homophobia. Marmor cites a study that found societies where people tended to believe homosexuals were born gay were “distinctly less homophobic than those who did not.”